People concerned about plans for Bulloch and Bryan counties to supply water to Hyundai Motor Group’s Metaplant America may be interested in attending a Coastal Georgia Regional Water Planning Council meeting, 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. (after registration beginning at 5:30 p.m.) Thursday, Dec. 14, at Ogeechee Technical College.
Billed as an “outreach” meeting for the water planning region’s Bryan-Bulloch County “sub-region,” its specific location will be Room 811, also called The River Room, in the Occupational Studies Building at the OTC main campus, 1 Joe Kennedy Blvd., off U.S. Highway 301 south of Statesboro. The Coastal Georgia region encompasses nine counties, and the council has 25 board members.
“It’s an informational meeting…. No business will take place,” said the Regional Water Planning Council’s chairman, Benjy Thompson. “The water council has done this in a few different places in the region. This one will be about water planning for South Bulloch and North Bryan, so there will be Bryan County representatives and Bulloch County representatives there to talk about their plans for water use in that area.”
Those 4 wells
Of course, northern Bryan County is where Hyundai Motor Group’s electric vehicle and battery manufacturing complex is under construction on the nearly 3,000-acre “mega site” provided by the four-county Savannah Harbor-Interstate 16 Corridor Joint Development Authority, or JDA, and the state. But the southeastern part of Bulloch County is where officials of the JDA member counties have planned for four large deep-wells to be drilled – two to be owned by Bulloch County and two by Bryan County, but all four in Bulloch’s boundaries – to supply water to the Hyundai complex, scheduled to begin production of vehicles in early 2025.
Bulloch County’s government has purchased two potential well sites, and the counties have applied to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, or EPD, for permits. Bulloch officials have also proposed using water from these wells to start a county water system that could serve residential and commercial customers.
This is not the community meeting with the EPD that Bulloch County officials have sought specifically over the groundwater permit. But EPD representatives are expected to attend this Regional Water Planning Council meeting, Thompson said.
The wells “will be a part of the conversation, for sure,” Thompson, who is better known in his local role as CEO of the Development Authority of Bulloch County, told the Statesboro Herald.
“It is a public meeting. There will be some time in the meeting for public comments after the information is shared,” he said.
The Coastal Georgia Regional Water Planning Council in one of 10 such councils throughout the state, established in 2009 under a directive from the Legislature and governor after a state water plan was established in 2008.
County chair’s remarks
An unrelated Thompson, Chairman Roy Thompson of the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners, talked about the upcoming Water Planning Council meeting when the county commissioners met Dec. 5. After citizens again mentioned concerns about the wells and water use during the commissioners’ regular public comments time, this Thompson encouraged them to attend the Dec. 14 meeting at Ogeechee Tech.
“They’re having a water council meeting next week,” he said. “Come to the meeting, and don’t depend upon Facebook to tell you what was said. Come to the meeting and hear it with your own ears. And that’s not a commissioner meeting. If it was a commissioner meeting, then we would be running it. We are not running it; it’s the water council.”
The county commissioners chair indicated that he still wants the EPD to have a separate Bulloch County meeting.
“We’re looking to EPD for answers,” Roy Thompson told the Herald. “But hopefully there will be another meeting, where it’s nothing but EPD and not a water council meeting, that will direct us. You know, we know there’s wells coming, but we don’t know the end result. We’re waiting on EPD to give us the end result.”